Why your company values should never be finished

5 minutes • Mar 9, 2021Culture
Illustration of a person looking at a list

It’s been a rough year. The uncertainties and chaos and heartbreak of 2020 forced many companies, including ours, to start talking about what we collectively believe in. 

If you don’t have company values yet, it’s time to write them. If you do have them, it’s time to revisit them to make sure they align with supporting and bringing out the best in your people. We recently spoke with Brittany McGuire, previous Talent Acquisition specialist at RXBAR, to get her to take on developing strong, clear, and employee-centric company values and why they matter right now.

Why your values should never be ‘finished ‘

Think about who you were at 16 years old, and who you are now. Those are two very different people, right? Times change. Leadership changes. Best practices change. Personal situations change. We adapt and grow. And when it comes to right now, we can make a pretty good argument for the “times change” category. 

It’s important to revisit your company values to make sure your organization unquestionably lives your values. As employees leave your company and new employees join, you should consider the perspectives of these new folks. What do they think? What about your values makes them want to get out of bed in the morning? And more importantly, are your practices, processes, and actions all aligned with what you say you value?

Ingrained principles vs. Aspirations 

Your core values are deeply ingrained during recruiting, onboarding, and the employee’s time at the company. They’re undeniable, they guide company actions, solve conflicts and serve as a leg to stand on to guide crucial decisions. Just because you don’t have values defined yet, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Every action and decision you make communicates something to your people and the outside world.

Aspirational values are those that your company needs to realize to succeed. Now, your employees are very observant – aspirational values can dilute your other values if you’re not careful.

If you have even one aspirational value in your repertoire, everyone knows deep down that “value” isn’t real…unless you’re transparently taking clear and well-communicated steps to start living it at your company. Otherwise, it causes your people to question if the other values are even real. For example “work-life balance” paired with “work hard play hard” is a contradiction that likely plays out with some people putting family first and others working long into the night.

How your values drive employee engagement

Your employees crave community (yes, even the introverted ones). By regularly asking your employees how they feel about the company values, you build trust and rapport with each person. In a time of burnout and uncertainty, core values give employees a sense of direction — something to lean on and believe in. They help guide difficult conversations and become the path for how you reach goals of any size. 

Revisiting your values on a consistent basis shows your people that you care about staying relevant to them. Simple, anonymous survey tools can help you ask questions like, 

  • Do you have a favorite value? Why? 

  • What is your least favorite value? Why?

  • What do you think our values are missing?

  • How do we live our values? (What practices, policies, etc. align with them?)

  • What are some ways you think we don’t live our values?

An easy way to know if you have too many values 

Stop any employee and ask them to rattle off all your company values. If they can’t do it, that’s on you, not them. You either have too many values, or they’re not resonating, or both. Avoid unnecessary memorization by grouping your value into categories as RXBAR has: 

These 4 categories are easy to remember and cover a lot of ground in the subtext. Plus, notice how they have some fun, and you can tell the personality the company has! They work and win together as one team. 

Build relationships with the people you work with, get started for free

How often you should revisit your values

You should revisit your values often enough so that you can always say that they reflect how you can support your people the best way you know-how. How often is enough? Leadership should look long and hard at the company values at least once a year, but you don’t want to change them so often that nobody can remember.

Here’s something else to consider – some people have unlucky and harder years than others – where not an entire population is affected – aka a chronic diagnosis, the death of a close family member, or other life-altering situations. Do your values support your people to the best of their ability, no matter what life throws their way? 

How the pandemic can help shape your values 

Working parents are having a different experience than employees without children. And especially now, some people are struggling, some people are thriving. While figuring out how to give varied support to every employee, you’re creating values that solve for widely shared feelings. 

“during this year of absolute craziness that everybody’s going through, our company wouldn’t be anywhere without our people. So we made sure that they have what they need,”  says Brittany McGuire, former talent acquisition partner at RXBAR.

How the current social climate can help shape your values 

Given what everyone is experiencing now, is your company cultivating a place where all ethnicities, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, learning styles, and more can feel welcome and connected? A diverse workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it brings a wide array of experiences, skills, perspectives, and insights to problem-solving that need to be heard.

“This is felt very strongly and taken very seriously at RXBAR”, says Brittany. “We wanted to bring in more diverse talent, whether that’s seen or unseen diversity in somebody because we want to add experiences and ideas.”

Why you should include your employees in the process

Nobody likes to be told what to do– people want to be a part of the development process.   

This is the secret sauce – the feedback and ideas from your employees are what make your values meaningful. They must be part of the conversation; otherwise, you’re dictating how they should act. 

“..it was conversations in all-hands meetings. It was conversations with the executive team. It was feedback surveys from employees. It was feedback from our People team. It was a company-wide effort– and everybody had a voice.” Brittany explained. 

Moving forward with the process

Your company is unique, and your people are likely wonderful humans. Now is the time to blow the dust off your original values and think about what might need to change. They’re supposed to be a helpful framework to help guide decision-making at your company. Take your time, but don’t wait for perfect– even after you’ve updated the values you’ll want to continue to define them and operationalize them.

Connect your people
now with Pingboard

Sign up for a free trial today

Get Started for Free
No credit card required